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Of those Crises, God's stern winnowers, from whose feet

earth's chaff must fly; Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath

passed by.

Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but re

cord One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and

the Word; Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the

throne, Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim un

known, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his


We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is

great, Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of

fate, But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's din, List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave

within, — “They enslave their children's children who make compro

mise with sin.”

Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood, Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched

the earth with blood, Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer

day, Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey; Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children


Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched

crust, Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 't is prosperous to

be just; Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands

aside, Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified, And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

Count me o'er earth's chosen heroes, - they were souls that

stood alone, While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious

stone, Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam in

cline To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith

divine, By one man's plain truth to manhood and to God's supreme


By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I

track, Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not

back, And these mounts of anguish number how each generation

learned One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts

hath burned Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to

heaven upturned.

For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr

stands, On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;

Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots

burn, While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.

'T is as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers' graves, Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a

crime; Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men

behind their time? Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that make Ply

mouth Rock sublime?

They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts, Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the

Past's; But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath

made us free, Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits

flee The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them

across the sea.

They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors

to our sires, Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom's new-lit altar

fires; Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in

our haste to slay, From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps

away To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to


New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good

uncouth; They must upward still, and onward, who would keep

abreast of Truth; Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pil

grims be, Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desper

ate winter sea, Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood

rusted key.





RISE, O days, from your fathomless deeps, till you loftier,

fiercer sweep! Long for my soul, hungering gymnastic, I devour'd what

the earth gave me; Long I roam'd the woods of the north long I watch'd

Niagara pouring; I travel'd the prairies over, and slept on their breast-I

cross'd the Nevadas, I cross'd the plateaus; I ascended the towering rocks along the Pacific, I sail'd out

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to sea;

I sail'd through the storm, I was refresh'd by the storm;
I watch'd with joy the threatening maws of the waves;
I mark'd the white combs where they career'd so high, curl-

ing over; I heard the wind piping, I saw the black clouds; Saw from below what arose and mounted (O superb! O

wild as my heart, and powerful!), Heard the continuous thunder, as it bellow'd after the light

ning; Noted the slender and jagged threads of lightning, as sudden

and fast amid the din they chased each other across

the sky; 1 Included in “Drum-Taps," Leaves of Grass. Reprinted through the generous permission of Mr. Horace Traubel.

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